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This month we'll be looking at recent developments in the Grünfeld. In addition we have a game that was sent to me by Bogdan Lalic illustrating one of his recent wins with a promising line against the Benko Gambit. Something for Benko lovers to think about.

Download PGN of December '13 Daring Defences games

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Benko Gambit Accepted 12.a4 [A59]

Over the years, various White tries have left Benko players struggling to find full compensation. Gradually, over time, ways are found to combat them and Black bounces back. The latest crisis involves the Accepted where White saves a tempo on the older lines (by doing without h2-h3) and then consolidating the queenside with 12.a4:

(or similarly 12.Qe2 followed by 13.a4 - à la Carlsen). I have left Lalic's analysis 'uncut', see Game one.

Grünfeld Defence 4.Bg5 [D80]

The following move shows how rich chess can be:

Not exactly the square where one generally places the knight in the Grünfeld, is it!?

In Game 2 Dorian Rogozenco uses this unusual development to win a convincing game. Looking at the limited experience (so far!) with this off-beat move, I get the impression that Black doesn't have an easy time, but in the notes I have suggested a possible improvement on move 10.

Of course, if faced with 8.Nh3, you would want to consider 8...Bxh3, to 'punish' your opponent's arrogance. However, the power of two bishops in a wide open position should never be underestimated.

In Game 3 Zherebukh employs 4...Bg7 to win with Black. The gambit that follows (5.Bxf6 Bxf6 6.cxd5 c5!) seems to be gaining in popularity (Topalov, Giri, Negi, Le Quang Liem and Vachier-Lagrave etc), as it offers interesting compensation:

White hasn't been able to find anything that feels like a safe edge, so I expect the fashion to continue. Is this idea going turn people away from playing 4.Bg5?

4.Qb3 dxc4 5.Qxc4 Be6!? [D81]

I had already looked at 4...dxc4 5.Qxc4 Be6 (the subject of Game 4), in a recent update. Here after 6.Qb5+ Bd7 7.Qb3 c5 8.d5 Maxim Rodshtein plays the ambitious 8...b5!?, a pawn gambit that goes back to the Second World War, but had been forgotten for a long time until recently:

A close look at the notes hints at where the Israeli GM has discovered an improvement or two, thus enabling Black to play this pawn thrust with confidence. However, if you are cautious by nature, you will notice that 8...Qb6 is also acceptable for the second player.

Exchange 7.Qa4+ [D85]

Game 5 is one which Ivan Popov would like to forget. He was completely bamboozled by the nuances in White's opening. First of all Vishnu placed his queen on a3, rather than b3...

From here White surveys the break with ...c5, as well as the distant e7-pawn. The game shows that Black's natural set-up comes under pressure after White later places his bishop on g5 (rather than the solid, but tame e3). The solution seems to be to play a timely ...h6 pushing the bishop back, but Popov missed his chance and then left himself with tactically-exposed pieces and chronic pawn weaknesses.

Another way for Black to avoid these difficulties is to opt for 8...Qd6, challenging for influence along the a3-e7 diagonal. This could be the safest way to diffuse White's idea.

Exchange 7.Be3 c5 8.Qd2 [D85]

Vovk deals a crushing blow to White's à la mode system in Game 6. Black undertakes central activity and presses quickly against the pawn centre. An approach that many years ago was endorsed by Garry Kasparov. A number of players have gone down the dubious road chosen by White, but Vladimir Kramnik avoided any trouble by opting for 11.Be2 against Levon Aronian. This looks like White's best terrain if he is seeking to reap an edge.

In any case, I consider it to be an excellent practical weapon for Black, as it avoids many of White's dangerous ideas.

Exchange 5.Bd2 Nb6, 7.f4 [D85]

Valentina Gunina chops up the Ukrainian No.1 female player Katerinya Lahno in Game 7. The use of Svidler's e3 and f4, combined with her novelty on move 9, worked a treat:

Black obtains material equality (by capturing on b2) but drops behind in development. I suggest a possible improvement on move 12 and another one on move 13. It's around there when things started to go wrong for Black.

5.h4 [D90]

This direct attacking thrust again!

After 5...dxc4 6.e4 the following position arises:

In the featured Game 8 Black was able to obtain a satisfactory position following 6...Bg4 7.Bxc4 0-0 8.e5, and now the new move, 8...Nh5! (see in particular the note to move 10).

An alternative method has also been introduced recently: 6...c5 7.d5 b5 8.h5, and now 8...Nxh5!, as employed by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

So placing the knight on h5 on move eight seems to do the trick! It's not surprising that Black is now finding ways of fighting back against White's daring h-pawn advance. However, as developments are coming in thick and fast, you'll need to keep regularly checking this column!

e3 with Qb3 [D95]

Is the position in the diagram familiar to you?

White is aiming for an early attack against f7. If you know your stuff, you'll be aware that White's idea is risky and has it's downsides. If not, you could get into trouble!

In Game 9 Cristhian Cruz played well enough to obtain the better chances, but with Black may have missed a win as early as move 12!

Russian System 7...Be6 [D97]

Game 10 involves an innovative pawn sacrifice courtesy of Kamil Miton. Black's 7...Be6 has become quite a respectable line, so the Polish GM at least found a way to surprise his opponent and create practical chances. From his point of view, it's a shame that he only obtained half-a-point after having obtained a completely winning game.

Although I didn't find the resulting positions easy to judge, Miton's idea does look sufficiently challenging to be used again. So I am expecting other folk to give 10.Be2 a go:

Hungarian Variation 8.Be2 [D97]

In Game 11 Evgeny Tomashevsky manages to eke out a win in one of the most mapped out lines in the Hungarian Variation. I'm not sure this adds a great deal to theory, but one does get the impression that despite Black being objectively equal, he still has more problems to solve. Schreiner placed the wrong rook on d8 and was never able to fully cope afterwards.

Till next month, Glenn Flear

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